Patti Bell obituary: how ‘Brum’s own Vivienne Westwood’ was big on Broad Street

Fashion queen Patti Bell, likened to Vivienne Westwood after helping to dress Duran Duran and other punk and new romantic stars in the 1970s and 80s, has died.

Patti, aged 79, passed away after a short illness. She had three sons: first-born John was followed by Dylan and Jake from her marriage to city rock star Steve Gibbons, who received a Broad Street Walk of Stars Award in November 2022.

The above picture of Patti Bell with Sid Vicious proudly sits on her son Dylan’s Instagram site. It was said to have been taken at Barbarella’s on Cumberland Street by Nick Preece.

Family friend Duncan Stanley, who lives in Vietnam where her DJ son Dylan is currently visiting, said: “Patti had some well-known Broad Street connections via The Rum Runner and other clubs, including becoming a friend of Tom Jones.

“The Run Runner is where Duran Duran made their break and Patti dressed them for years as well as lots of other fashionistas of the punk and then new romantic eras – even Bucks Fizz.

“Patti’s famous boutique was on Hurst Street where there was a recent exhibition at the National Trust’s Back to Backs called ‘It’s Not Unusual’.”

The June 2023 exhibition featured a series of photographs by local artist Gary Lindsay-Moore and recalled how the Kahn & Bell Shop, opened in 1976 at 72 Hurst Street, was owned by Jane Kahn and Patti Bell.

The Back to Backs’ showcase described the pair as “innovators in the punk and new romantic scene… Birmingham’s equivalent to Vivienne Westwood”.

Dave Travis, a former music press photographer turned Broad Street promoter, has strong memories of Patti.

Dave, who ran the Click Club at Burberries on the site next to Lee Longlands on Broad Street, said: “I knew Patti for some 40 years and probably last saw her a couple of years ago at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath where her son Dylan runs the blues night.

“I first met her when I was doing some leafleting for gigs. She used to come to a lot of Broad Street club nights and for quite a period was married to Steve Gibbons.

“Over the years, Patti was pictured with everyone, including Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols – she has her arm around him in the picture at the top of her Facebook page.

“But having started out as the cloakroom girl at the old Cedar Club she might well have also previously hung up the coats of the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie!

“Everybody just liked her. Patti was just a really lovely, wonderful person and so welcoming when I first met her and she had no idea who I was.”

Another picture of Patti posted on her son Dylan’s Instagram site. This one was flipped to use on the cover for the Only After Dark album (main picture and below).

In 2006, a compilation album called Only After Dark (EMI Music UK) had a striking image of Patti Bell on the cover (see main picture). The CD featured other artists as varied as David Bowie, The Human League, Kraftwerk, Bryan Ferry, Tubeway Army, Donna Summer and Grace Jones that were played at The Rum Runner when keyboardist Nick Rhodes was working there as a DJ.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph about how all of those featured had inspired the Duran Duran sound, Nick recalled in 2006 how Jane and Patti had helped the band to “open the door to the 1980s.”

Nick wrote: “Our central scene evolved around 20 or so people: fashion designers Jane Kahn and Patti Bell were at the core and predominantly responsible for engineering the look. It was bright, brash and colourful.

“There were also occasional visits by Boy George and, somewhat bizarrely, Pete Townshend of The Who.”

The cover of Only After Dark.

The Rum Runner site was first opened in 1964 by brothers Michael and Paul Berrow, who later developed it as a new romantics’ breeding ground and also managed Duran Duran.

The building was demolished in 1987 to make way for the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In November 2022, the Birmingham Civic Society awarded the site a blue plaque.


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